Why the Alberton hospital keeps closing, and what's being done to address it

·2 min read
The overnight emergency service at Western Hospital operates with only one nurse and one paramedic.   (CBC - image credit)
The overnight emergency service at Western Hospital operates with only one nurse and one paramedic. (CBC - image credit)

Health officials say a plan is in the works to end the constant closures at Western Hospital in Alberton, P.E.I.

In January, the hospital's overnight emergency services have been shut down five times.

Staff shortages, often due to workers out sick, were to blame for most of the closures.

"There's lots of challenges facing health care these days and COVID is one of them," said Christina Phillips, administrator for Community Hospitals West for Health P.E.I.

Storms have also caused closures, and, most recently, the hospital was closed to repair a generator.

Phillips said closures are a last resort, and she's working on a plan to reduce or even eliminate them.

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The overnight emergency service operates with only one nurse, and one paramedic.

Phillips said she hopes they can add a second nurse to the shift, and have more staff trained to fill in.

"We've been talking about that, and how we can improve our services and make sure we always have access to the CEC overnight, so we're actively discussing that and certainly that's one option," she said. "To have more of a cushion and have some resiliency built into the program so we don't have these closures."

Small staff

Phillips said only five per cent of jobs at the hospital aren't filled, but even with a small staff, having even one nurse call in sick can create problems.

David Gordon, the mayor of Alberton, said it's always a concern when the hospital gets closed for part of the day. Patients would have to go to the Prince County Hospital, which puts a strain on Summerside's health-care system.

Health Minister Ernie Hudson, who is also the MLA for the area, said he doesn't like to hear about any interruptions to service at Island hospitals.

"I have been in touch with Health P.E.I. to express my concerns and to commit to working with them to keeping our hospitals offering the services their communities expect," he said in a statement.

"Our Island's smaller communities depend on access to health services and I will work with and support Health P.E.I. as they address staffing shortages and other factors that lead to interrupted services."

Opposition has heard it before

But Michele Beaton of the Opposition Green Party said the minister of health has said many times already that there is a plan to ensure sufficient staff so the hospital can remain open.

"He committed himself to making sure the hospital was open and available to Islanders up west who need care," she said in a statement.

"Islanders would appreciate an update from the minister explaining what exactly are the challenges with keeping the hospital open and the plan he has in place to ensure all Islanders can receive care in their communities."

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